hatred of sound

2015 so far. 
Thanks this week to Stormin' Norman. For everything. 
School started today but it wasn't so bad. It's my third semester at Asheville Buncombe Technical Community College, so, you know, I'm a big kid on campus now. This morning I sat down next to Billy, my old friend from Anatomy & Physiology. "The parking situation is out of control right now," he whispered to me. "I had to park in a hole."

I thought about Billy and his wide grin, metallic with braces, emerging from a hole in the earth like a gopher, shaking dirt off of himself as he tromped to Organic Chemistry, and I began to feel better about the semester.

There is a man out in the country who is fixing my back. He twists me, cracks me, hooks me to electrodes and covers me with blankets of ice. Every day I make the long drive out to his office, and sometimes while driving I listen to one of the many Christian radio stations they have down here. Just to see what they're up to. I also wonder if the chiropractor is Christian, and whenever I'm at his office I look for clues. I know it doesn't matter. But being non-religious person in a such a deeply religion area, I'm always curious.

Yesterday David and I hiked to the top of Bear Wallow mountain in Gerton. I interviewed the author of a local trail guide for an article the other day, and this was the hike he recommended. The summit was bald and bleak, in a pretty way. I felt sort of sad at the top. Maybe because it's January, and as we decided one year ago: January is January, wherever you are. Maybe it's because I'm being driven insane by sounds. I'd write more about that, but I have to admit that I don't know how. It would come off as too strange. Maybe one day.

I've written three articles so far for my new job. An interview with an adventure photographer, an interview with Courtney from Holdfast Outfitters (I like her!) and a peppy little thing about creative ways to stay in shape in Asheville over the winter. This week I'm interviewing a contestant from National Geographic's Ultimate Survival Alaska! My first reality TV star- maybe I'll be writing for US magazine one day. But I dream.

Today is wet and grey, which is a mercy because these are the days that were created for classrooms and books. Tomorrow morning Billy and I will be in chemistry lab, a three hour block of time that I will tick off in my notebook in ten minute intervals. I really know how to make myself miserable. But! Already this year I've seen Jerry Douglas play his dobroe live on stage, went mountain biking on a very warm day, slept the whole night through, read a book on the couch, watched Hometeam slide down a river of ice, saw Molly blow out the candles on her birthday pie, taught a friend how to roll a kayak and ate the best hamburger of my life. Small victories.
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I have a few things to catch up on- if you're wondering where the post is about all of us and where we live, I'm still working on it. I almost didn't do a Mystery Prize today, but the truth is, your comments provide such good companionship that I didn't want to go without them during this gloomy week.

This week's Mystery Prize is designed to bring a tiny burst of sunshine to your winter. To enter to win, leave me a comment with your trick to cheer up your January days. Everyone has one hat trick- lighting candles, your favorite book, skiing, juicing; whatever it is, I'm going to try them all. Alternatively, you could tell us how your new years is going so far. Or both.

I read every comment. Actually, a lot of people read every comment. Sometimes they inspire brand new posts. Thank you for them. A winner will be chosen at random from the comments, and sunshine will be promptly sent their way. Good luck!!


Thanks this week to Elizabeth Q. Without you, I couldn't write this.
I try and give the house a good cleaning before the semester starts. The computer screen plays a looping clip of terrorists running through a supermarket in Paris. It seems that every room I try and clean ends up worse than before. I pull the couch across the room to sweep beneath it, then, satisfied with the block of newly clean floor, I lose interest.

I decide to cook. I have to make something really stunning. A recipe for Homemade perogies looks good, sufficiently complicated, nice and comforting for the weather we've been having. I roll out the dough with a bottle of red wine we've been given as a gift. I can't drink red, anyway. There's flour everywhere. The filling requires me to boil four huge baking potatoes, so I fill up our biggest pot with water and tote it over to the stove. It will take a while to boil so I wander to my room to wait. You know what they say about watching water boil.

When Dave comes home from work, he finds me tucked in bed reading a book. He looks at me for a moment. "Are you cooking?" He asks.

"I was," I say, and turn the page.

On the phone the next day, I tell my mom I'm thinking about dropping out of school. My new job is perfect, I explain, but it takes so much time. I don't see how I can do both.

A few seconds pass in silence. Then I hear her sigh. She's struggling to find a way to say something hard come out soft, and there's something about how earnestly she's trying breaks my heart a little bit.

"The money you're making," she says, "it's good. It's such a good start. But it's not nearly enough to support you."

"I know," I say, cutting her off. "I know that. But we've become really thrifty- now that we buy dry beans in bulk instead of cans, our grocery bill is a lot less."

The words come out so impossibly lame that I want desperately to separate myself from them. I suddenly feel like a third party in the conversation, someone floating on the ceiling looking down on us both. How do you respond to that one? I want to say to my mother. How old is your daughter again?  

My emotions don't seem to have much barring in reality. I can work all day writing an article, doing an interview in the morning, sending out emails and meeting my deadline, but when the evening comes I'll feel gripped by guilt, convinced that if everyone knew just how obscenely lazy I was, no one would want to associate with me.

Other times, I'll quell a rising panic about money and employment by reading some article about 100 ways to use coconut oil. This is the ticket! I'll think. We just need more coconut oil around the house! And I'll bundle up and head to the store to buy a third jar of coconut oil, and I'll feel absurdly productive.

Things can be confusing.

Then there's the news to consider, all those people scared and dead in Paris, an armed man wandering the parking lot of an elementary school in Washington. The new year starting off with a bang, but this is what's normal now. I drag the couch back into its place and pretend like it's not happening, and while I'm at it I pretend the climate isn't getting all screwed up. By lunch I'm playing a game in my head where  the continuation of our species hinges entirely on my floor being swept and dinner being ready at its usual time. The day seems more interesting when I think Big.
Now to choose the winner of this week's mystery prize, which I've refrained from opening myself so far, but if it doesn't get dropped in the mail tomorrow we're all toast.

If you haven't checked out the comments, you ought to. Between us all we've had quite the year.

Liz Stout said...
"Something new... Falling into a good yoga habit. I've wanted to for so long and have many failed attempts under my belt, but I now seem to be in a good swing of things and it is so very wonderful. Side effect of good yoga practice = better headspace. I'm able to slow down and get out of my head and not beat myself up so much about things. Giving oneself the benefit of the doubt is so very wonderful. Happiness is much more present as a result."

Congratulations Liz! I commend you, as I've never been able to get into a yoga practice myself- I can't even touch my toes. I lack the discipline, but giving myself the benefit of the doubt sounds nice. Maybe I'll try it again this year.

Stay warm everyone! I'll see you here very soon. 

think of a place

Thank you this week to Steve and Paula. You make it possible. Keep an eye on your mail!
I love it here at night, when the whole neighborhood is asleep but I am awake. I can hear the strains of The Crane Wife coming from the living room where my books are laid out on the table, the pair of ugly terriers at the end of the street barking at the night, and every now and then a siren wailing from town a few blocks away. Other than that, it is remarkably quiet. 

When we first bought the house, we spent a week pulling up the heavy grey carpet, which was spongey with decay. Now I can glide from room to room in the lamplight, not making a sound on the polished wood. 

We wanted to live in a place where we could walk everywhere. This proximity usually translates into noise, the sounds of traffic and people shouting as they come home from the bars.  The quiet of our street is unexpected, a bonus. In Seattle I lived in eleven different houses and each one was on a roaring bus line; at least that's how I remember it. 

I do miss Seattle, but I don't talk about it, because who doesn't miss a place? It's surprising to me how I miss it- not in words but in vivid and specific images. I'll wake up in the morning and a picture will have emerged, floating belly up and glistening in my head: a ferryboat lit up at night. A charcoal sky with a torrent of water rushing down the street, swamping the gutters, the sound of a city swallowing itself. 

In some ways our neighborhood, West Asheville, is like Seattle shrunk down to the head of a pin. There is one of every thing I need, instead of hundreds.

Instead of water everywhere there are mountains that turn purple at sunset.

But it doesn't have the slickness of Seattle. It costs less to live here, and it lacks the brilliant shine of a city well nourished by Microsoft, Amazon and Boeing. The houses I pass as I walk into town are small and, for the most part, falling apart, with leaning door frames and sunken roofs. Their inhabitants sit on the porches and smoke cigarettes. They'll nod as I pass by, but not always. 

The main street of West Asheville is a mix of new restaurants and empty brick storefronts. There is an organic food co-op, and a tiny shop called the Asheville Bee Charmer where you can sample honey from a row of tiny jars. There is Buffalo Nickel, a restaurant that glows invitingly each evening but always seems to be empty. The old barber shop with its striped pole rubs elbows with the West End Bakery, crowded and fragrant and loud with voices and the hiss of the espresso machine. The ceiling is covered in cotton spider webs from halloween, which was five weeks ago, and the glass cases are crammed with so many cakes and tarts and round loaves of bread you wonder why a small town bakery could ever need so much. 

Although, is Asheville a small town? It hasn't decided that yet. That's one thing I love about it; it can be a small town when you need it to be a small town, and a much bigger one when you need something new to look at. I shared this place with an ex boyfriend for a year and, conscious of one another's corners, we never had a run in.

At our favorite bar, Pour, an entire wall of different beers flow from silver taps when you wave a wristband in front of them. There are darts and shuffleboard and a giant, life-sized Jenga game that collapses loudly every ten minutes, sending a roar of screams and laughter throughout the place.  The cafe where I study is in the same building. When I am done for the day I can pack up my papers and step smartly into the next stage of the evening without even going outside. 

There is is a bookstore, a cider house, a pinball museum. There is Ingles and shabby Save-a-lot food stores and the sprawling new Whole Foods that glitters with salt out near the box stores. UNCA is tucked behind the botanical gardens, while just across the river and up a hill you'll find the squat, colorless buildings of the community college where I go to school. From its perch I can look out over the Biltmore Estate- America's biggest house, a castle, with its sprawling, 8,000 acre grounds. It is brilliantly lit up for Christmas, but I only know that because of a billboard on I-40. It costs seventy dollars just to visit.    

There is much more to this town and to our house, with all its cheerful oddities, but I have plenty of time to tell you about it later. Looking at the calendar I can see that it's Monday, and I have something up my sleeve for you.  

Photo Credit: Appalatch.com
This week I am partnering with Appalatch, a local clothing company that makes exquisite wool shirts, sweaters, capes and scarves. We have a unique and lovely giveaway to brighten these dark days and keep you warm this winter.

Photo Credit: Appalatch.com

First a word about AppalatchI am enamored with this company not only for their luxurious, handsomely made products, but also for their dedication to environmental responsibility. Every piece of their operation, from the farm where their wool is sourced to the textile mill, is certifiably sustainable. Their clothes are soft, long lasting and handcrafted in small batches.

This week we are giving away a gift card for a custom-knit sweater, valued at $189 dollars.

Appalatch will take your measurements, chat with you about your specific wants, and then custom knit a gorgeous sweater just for you. "Clothing companies tend to generalize our shapes, and tell us what is good and what is bad," the marketing director, Ella, told me over coffee. "This sweater is designed precisely to fit you." Literally, a perfect fit.

In addition to the giveaway, from now until December 17th, go to Appalatch.com and enter coupon code WILDERCOAST for 15% off.

In keeping with the theme of 'A Perfect Fit,' this week's prompt was inspired by a photo, taken by Maggie Jones. Maggie loves where she lives, and does a terribly good job of making me homesick for Washington State. Follow her on Instagram- Theruralroost. She comes highly recommended. 

To be entered in the giveaway, leave a comment and tell me one reason why you love where you live. 

I know we can't all live in our ideal place, but it's good to recognize at least one thing that you makes you happy where you are.  I'm looking forward to reading them and taking a virtual trip around the country and beyond. I savor these comments. They're like jewels or chocolates to me. 

The winner will be chosen at random and announced in one week. Go to town and good luck!

All in a week

1. Bryan at the top of the Apron 2. drinking Johnny and Junes 3. running through cotton puffs 4. Saturday night at the Brewery in Squamish 5. on the wall in a wind storm 6. summer running on Lake Washington 7. perfect camping evening with oatmeal stouts 8. a night out with Kristin 9. waiting out a rainy day in BC 9. unroped 10. Amber shows up with flowers

The final tally

I'm going to tell you this next thing not because it quite haunts me anymore, but because just a few months ago I was so committed to telling this story and I cannot in good conscious just let it appear like it faded away so easily. Admirable- coveted, even- in our world is this stalwart attitude of moving forward without a doubt, of stealing away the ego and preserving emotional resources purely for what is still to come, never wasting a moment on glancing backwards. But I can relate to none of this. Writing this blog has obliterated my chances of that, as if I had a chance to begin with.

Remember that when Andrew and I broke up, I was the first to admit that there was much more involved besides heartbreak, besides the pure and acceptable emotions of missing a partner that left my life abruptly. There was ego, self doubt, the sour disbelief of somebody new? And of course, the shame and inconvenience of breaking up at a time when everyone around me, it seemed, was getting engaged and getting married and settling down, thanks a lot, Facebook. It was a real bouquet of shadowy, twisty unpleasantness.

So I was genuinely interested to see how all these things had healed, assuming they'd healed, after many months and lots and lots of hard work. I was curious, cautiously so, and also I missed Andrew, mostly the way you miss an old friend, and I wanted to see him. After all, we'd never intended to never see each other again ever, although after I move that will probably be the case.

So we met up a few weeks ago. It had been four months since I'd seen him, and he'd been pretty stiff and I'd been pretty drunk and then I cried at the table. After that fun night you understand my lingering reticence for another dinner, or (even worse) a chance run in.  I'd been dutiful at avoiding old neighborhoods and climbing gyms. And once again I'll  say this was not because he did anything wrong. It was simply because I was doing worse than him, I was taking it much harder.

(This doesn't surprise me. I'm a highly sensitive person on most fronts. One Skittle can ignite a migraine in my brain that will lasts for days, if consumed in the wrong weather or the wrong time of day or on an airplane. Caffeine makes me high as a kite. And my feelings, thoughts and emotions are fierce. I think it's why I'm a writer and why my life is, or at least appears to be sometimes, maybe a little bit unusual.

I take medicine to help curb the sensitivity. If I didn't mention that I would be lying in every post that I write. It take one pill that acts as a migraine preventative, sleeping aide, anti anxiety and anti depressant. I've been on and off of it for years. I can write more on that later.)

So anyhow, Andrew and I meet for a classic climbing and dinner combo, and I learn pretty quickly what has healed and what is still in rehab. The big wins came early: I wasn't nervous, not particularly concerned with what I wore or what my hair looked like, and when he first walked in I felt nothing but happiness. But then we ran into some people and I realized that agreeing to meet at the big crowded public climbing gym may have been a huge mistake.

The people we ran into were some of his friends who I don't know, who had no idea who I am, and who immediately start asking about his girlfriend and where she was and why she isn't there, and all the fun times they had, the lot of them, on climbing trips these past few months.

This felt, for me, just pretty uncomfortable and painful and also just kind of annoying. But my mind was split on the issue. The self preservation side of me was thinking 'what in hell life decisions did you possibly make that landed you here, now, with these people? Flee!' While the other half, perhaps the logical side, was thinking 'buttercup, it might be time to toughen up. You're fine. He's fine. We're all fine.'

In the end, yeah, it's good to feel what you feel, but at some point you do have to toughen up, buttercup, not that I'd ever suggest meeting up with an ex at a climbing gym, those things range from big playground full of friends to HOUSE OF EMOTIONAL TORTURE.

We went out to eat. That was easier. Dinner was nice. Andrew is just a nice guy all around, he was kind and inquisitive and interested in my life. And he seems to be supremely winning at life, which I tried not to resent him for. My friend Dave told me that if I get competitive and start comparing my life to his life, or her life, or anybody else's life, that's a good way to go crazy quickly. Because you can never win. Ever. 

Then at the end, as we were saying goodbye on the street, he said I should meet his girlfriend and I said oh no way. He said we'd probably really hit it off and guys, you need to stop saying that, because of course we'd get along. But your mere existence might prevent that from happening for a little bit.

We hugged goodbye and then I drove home and cried until my ears filled up with tears.


Because I was lying on my back and so the tears slid sideways off my face and into my ears.

Oh, why was I crying? Because Andrew and I had had a really good relationship and I missed that. Simple. For once, simple.

Seth says I have to stop beating myself up for having feelings. He pointed towards his broken thumb and said, "My thumb hurts because I broke the bone. Would you ever tell me that I'm weak for feeling the pain?"

I said no.  He looked at me for a long time and said, "....sooo......"

I get it.

Okay, so here's the final tally:

Heart: just fine (what a workhorse!)
Stomach: can still twist a little if I sit down and think about things, but mostly just hungry, and
                  very flat (!)  
Brain: pretty much concerned with other things
Ego: still bent, but can easily be distracted by posing in sports bra in a full length mirror (see  
         stomach, above.)
Envy: still blocking any people on FB who might post photos of andrew and his girlfriend, so I
           suppose still in recovery?
Senses: mostly returned
Humor: working on it, for christ's sake

nothing unusual

Some days are okay because they're just days. You worked a decent amount, no deadlines met or paychecks cashed, no promotions or records broken, but still, you worked another day towards all those things, if those are the things you want.

You fed yourself or kept others fed around you. And maybe you did your laundry or cleaned up the house, or sat down and payed your bills or maybe you didn't, but that's okay, you can do that tomorrow. Probably a few things made you pause and for just a moment or two you were captured- the smell of a new conditioner in your hair when you took a shower, or a strawberry, or the way you climbed gratefully into bed at ten o'clock, the pages of the book you kept on turning and turning, or a stranger waved to you from their car or the light streaming in through the blinds reminded you for a second of a trip you once took to Spain.

You won't remember any of these things, they're just tiny little points of light that flash for an instant and then they're gone. They're not important, but tomorrow will bring more, and the next day still more, tiny little sparks of pleasure. When you daydream, you may think of big things like meeting and marrying and holding your new infant, or climbing something tall or skiing something steep, seeing your face in a magazine or kissing your boss who is much older than you, or making ten thousand dollars by selling one photo, or finishing medical school and starting your own private practice or traveling to Haiti or becoming a paramedic, finally, after all those hours.

Chances are you won't think too much about tomorrow's little contentments, and that's why they are so wonderful. They're always a surprise and there are hundreds and hundreds of thousand just waiting, still to come. Just for you. Only yours.

Today I worked a full day, I ate and counted the bruises on my legs that appear like little clouds, the aftermath of a weekend on rocks in a windstorm. I took the dog on a long walk and let her swim and chase things, I called my parents for a few minutes, and did some chores but nothing too difficult, and just in general I stayed out of the way of my own life. So often I have my hand gripped on the steering wheel, trying to control everything, trying to force a confession out of every piece of uncertainty around me.

Not today. This evening as I fed the dog I was about to think 'what a useless day' but I stopped myself. It was a good average normal day. There will be buckets of these. There have been buckets of these. I want to stay out of the way more often, let the elaborate behind the scenes levers and pulleys and plans work away, quiet and invisible and relentless, while I read a book or drink some wine with a friend who already knows everything there is to know about me. I want to be curious but patient, capable and prepared but also trusting that everything is marching along as it should.

So I sit here, scratching the dog with one foot, the dog who is fast asleep on the wood floor, she feels that today was good enough, she knows without thinking that tomorrow will be just what it needs to be.

All in a week

1. when Will is in Washington 2. weekday night on the beach 3. Rip on Castle Rock 4. Bonfire for the return of our friends 5. So visits! 6. Seth and I attended a Belltown party for Northwest Avalanche Center volunteers (remember the grand spectacular?) 7. the occasional vertical tuesday evening 8. camping with Molly by Icicle Creek 9. my office in the midst of multi tasking 10. drying out in Leavenworth 11. Squamish dreams, omelettes  

If you like pictures of rocks, dogs and beaches, follow me on Instagram: @Melinadream

All in a week

1. we stumbled across a ghost town in Ritzville, Eastern Washington 2. evening out in Belltown 3. a first attempt at my early summer project in Post Falls, Idaho 4. the last night with my roommate, who took all the furniture 5. climbers try to make sense of class 6 rapids 6. Irish jam night at Conyr Byrns with Curry, who just left for Alaska 7. take your stuffed snake to the beach in a rainstorm day was thoroughly enjoyed by all 8. exploration at a new crag  9. the long drive home 10. dance break at a gas station 11. weekend at the lake house

If you enjoy the All in a week photos, follow me on Instagram: @melinadream

the little fellow on the beach

We were down at the beach, having just about the finest picnic a girl could hope for, and the boys were talking about airplanes. They were sitting there talking about airplanes and tracking the airplanes that flew across the sky. I wasn't listening, I prefer boats to planes, I was looking out over the water. It was a grey evening, coming on the heals of an equally grey day, and the couple of fires that smoldered on the shore made it smell like autumn and New England.

But there we were, at the Northwest edge of the Northwest corner of the country. Jake and Seth and Tyler were wearing flannels and wool hats in mid May, after all, and we were all gazing at the black outline of the olympic mountain range as it melted against the sky in the twilight.

I've now lived here in Seattle longer than I've lived anywhere else.

When the sky was clear of planes, we poured wine into coffee mugs and went for a walk down the beach. That's when Tyler spotted a little seal swimming to shore. It was swimming like mad. We were all laughing because it's funny to see a seal gunning it towards you in the water. And then right in front of our eyes the little guy put both flippers on the sand and started wiggling up onto land.

I used to work as the most uninformed naturalist Glacier Bay has ever seen, but I do know there are some pretty strict laws when it comes to getting close to marine wildlife. But this guy was coming to us, determined, flopping and struggling through the sand until it was directly next to Tyler's feet. So Tyler bent down and Jake just happened to have an old fashion disposable camera in his pocket, and together man and seal posed for a photo.

Then the little critter turned around, pulling its smooth round body through the sand with tiny little flippers, and it slipped back into the water and disappeared.

We were all sort of speechless until Tyler said, "That seal literally came up on land just to give us a thumbs up!"

So we returned to our picnic and ate some sandy milanos, and nobody had much to say, and life was good.

All in a week

This week was almost entirely work, typing, computer screens and running. Here are the few precious moments I was not at my desk: 

1. grey sunset beach picnic 2. sundress weather 3. one lap of the loop trail and two rounds of margaritas with Mackenzie 4. Seth at the summit of Rattlesnake Ridge 5. evening stories in a hazy field 6. misadventures in raw eating 7. Friday evening in the woods 8. writing for 25 cents a word with 25 cent refills at Fiore 9. three to six miles a day on this one perfect trail 10. white wine, Jake in a jacket 

If you enjoy the 
All in a Week photos, follow my instagram feed @melinadream

My life is a raw, three layer disaster

I decided to become a raw vegan. It's the thing these days. It will give me glowing skin and tons of energy and make me a round the clock delight.

This is the right lifestyle for me and I thought it would last, and I was very excited.

I was messing around online, lost somewhere on Facebook, which incidentally has become a form of consensual torture, when I came across a recipe for raw, vegan peanut butter and jelly bars.

They looked fantastic. For three nights I lay awake in my bed fantasizing about them. On the fourth day I decided to go for it.

They say you ought to do one thing every day that scares you, and I've decided that for me, once a week is good enough, and this would be my thing.

So I made a shopping list, and I even remembered to bring it, which made me feel very put together and on top of things. At Whole Foods I bought what amounted to a savagely expensive deconstructed coconut. I bought coconut oil, coconut butter, coconut meat, coconut flakes, coconut nectar, coconut water, coconut milk, and on top of that I bought just a whole coconut. Later on I had to google how to slaughter it.

I hadn't been paying too much attention when I'd jotted down the ingredients in my kitchen that morning, but now that I was on the front lines I started to feel a little dazed. Besides the dizzying panoply of coconut, the bars also called for 34 whole dates. That felt like a lot. But I bought them.

I bought everything, reasoning that since I'd gone raw, I'd need all that stuff in the pantry anyway. Absolutely the only thing in my cart was ingredients for the dessert, and as I edged towards the check out line I could detect disaster in the air. The ingredients added up to 85 dollars, so the check out man said "your total is 85 dollars!" Cheerfully, as if it was okay to spend that much on a single afternoon of baking. Not even baking.

I've become good at playing very cool in the grip of catastrophe, so I slid my card with a little "sure sure no problem" smile, but inside my head I was a ten year old flying over the handlebars of her bike, feet kicking madly in the air, arms akimbo.

I'm not sure how it began but everything has gone completely off of the tracks.

It was far too late to back out. I went home and I constructed the thing, and it turns out that the one recipe used nearly everything I bought, with nothing but a few cups of raw cacao and some coconut oil leftover. But I did end up with massive, massive amount of raw peanut butter and jelly bars, so that's good, until I ate a piece and discovered I'd just created the world's most calorically dense substance on the planet, and I wouldn't need to eat again for five weeks.

So I just stood there, and stared down at the pan in awe and bewilderment. What have I done? These bars are worth 85 dollars. This is my cell phone bill. This is 3/4 of the plane ticket to Santa Fe that I didn't buy. This is three pieces of a trad rack I could be quietly accumulating so that one day I can be in the Patagonia catalog and die a fulfilled woman. This is my life in a raw, three tiered disaster.

This is essentially a well disguised coconut.

Pride and common decency kept me from scraping it into the compost, lethargy kept me from utilizing the freezer; I had no choice but to take it on the road. My dessert and I, a traveling sideshow.  I brought it from house to house, I fed it to my friends and I watched their reactions. They were decidedly mixed, ranging from the forced and determinately cheerful, all the way to the neutral, the bluntly apprehensive and those who vocalized regret upon first bite.

And in the end, I did end up in my kitchen, alone in wool socks, scraping it all into the compost bin, gritting my teeth and repeating to myself that we all make mistakes, we all mistakes, we all make mistakes.

All in a week

1. a late night picnic with Connor before he is snatched away by Alaska 2. Sunshine in Canada, meal planning 3. Amber and Chai head for home on the last day 4. the freelance life with Seth 5. she has the tiniest shadow 6. a last minute back yard BBQ 7. wearing dia de las meurtos tights on cinco de mayo 8. chalking up 9. ella fix in the park 10. the Squamish crew- all I'd said was 'Smile!' 

If you enjoy the All in a Week photos, follow my instagram feed @melinadream

All in a week

1. our beautiful childhood friend Jeneen came for a visit 2. these days 3. evidence of summertime 4. I went to the islands to see Babybythesea 5. Anacortes 6. on the ferry with my girl 7. a late night drive to Canada 8. lost in Vancouver at midnight 9. climbing trip plannings 10. Squamish bouldering 

If you enjoy the All in a Week photos, follow my instagram feed @melinadream

Spring Update, Beach Magic

The iron sky winter is melting into a spring that is bright and cold, full of early lilacs and already the biggest full moon I've ever seen rise over this city. I'm happy these days because I like my job; the constant fret of money worries has been suspended, at least until this time next year. There is a crisp satisfaction to paying the bills on time, perfectly, little rows of numbers marching neatly down the checkbook.

Over at Fisherman's Terminal, crews are returning to the boats, they are crowding the Highliner after work, they are charting their course back to Alaska, happy to be back sleeping in tiny berths with their friends. Part of me remembers the camaraderie, forgives the drudgery and forgets the long days, and wishes I was returning with them for another season. Sometimes I join them for cans of New Belgium Shifts or bottles of Amber Ales, brewed in Juneau, but we live now in such separate worlds I don't always have a lot to say.  Which is okay, I've learned recently that if I just shut up for a moment, people will tell me some interesting things.
I have been getting rid of a few of my possessions,  just like I said I would, and as my things go I feel an emptiness in my head and in my chest as well. There is nobody to think about for now. That's good. It allows for freedoms. The days of the week skip from one to the other, with not much to worry about except what to eat and what to write, and occasionally where to go.

This feeling of being unmoored, of sailing along alone and in peace, will probably last about as long as the temporary break in my financial worries.  I'm enjoying them both while I can.

Jesse and I had a beach picnic last week, the laziest of all social engagements, yet still all the organization I could muster. I slow-cooked a brisket all day while I worked from home, and Jess brought bread and tomatoes and beer. We invited everyone we knew and gave them about five hours warning, knowing that if no one showed up we'd still have a nice evening.

But they did show up, not many people can resist the water after a day as warm and clear as that day had been. They came and went, bringing beer and dogs and bicycles; they said hello, sat for a while or stayed all evening. We were treated to a deep hued sunset and a beach full of fires and paper lanterns drifting North towards the Straight of Juan de Fuca.
If I left, the way I left last year on the boat, I would miss all this. I'd miss Jesse, and the sound, all the dogs and all the bicycles. Yet still I find myself tapping my foot under the table, when I'm at home and it's only me, looking around the room in the silence, not entirely trusting myself just to sit still for a moment.
This post is dedicated to Megan and Cary.

All in a week

1. spring at Shilshole 2. Lee and the Pilot 3. the card shop that sells espresso- I spend too much money here 4. last wave of Boulder Drop rapid on the Skykomish river 5. breakfast of champions on Saturday morning 6. Megan on a hot blue ski day 7. dogs and crowds at Vantage 8. solos margaritas and late sunsets in eastern washington 9. the dog going nuts at the beach. 10. Jesse's birthday crab boil 11. the city in bloom

All in a week

1. the last yoga night until next winter 2. low tide 3. Ren triumphs over my busted shoulder 4. Jesse in his element 5. found blue 6. the return of taco tuesdays 7. spring and the coffee is over ice 8. wings 9. the anchored ship cafe, where the boat captains go and I write in the mornings 10. bursting trees at Discovery 11. packing for the season's first climbing trip

The happiest moment of my whole life

The happiest moment of my life occurred at 1:13am on an early Tuesday morning inside of a Walgreen's. The happiness was artificially induced, buts its inauthentic origins did little at the time to diminish my state of euphoria.

I should have been disconsolate. First there was the fact of me being at a Walgreens at 1:13 in the morning, having just been released from the hospital where I'd lay alone for many a doped up hour.

Even worse,  I'd spent the last three days violently voiding the entire contents of a week's worth of food up my wind pipe and out of my mouth, over and over in a desperate, bent-kneed, eye-watering, gastronomical attack. In public. At the beach. In front of the boy with whom I share a rocky history and whose affections I was trying to win back. His eyes, as I staggered back towards him on the sandy path, wiping my eyes, held the wide-round horror of the "I know I should support you but that was really gross" variety.  

To compound matters, I'd just put him on a plane back to New Mexico, where, like clockwork, he'd come down with the virus. On the plane, not in New Mexico. So he was gone and I was missing him and hoping he wasn't too resentful of me for causing him such a wretched ride home.

But still, I was happier and full of more pleasant tidings than I can ever remember. When the bored, poker faced pharmacist told me I'd have to wait fifteen minutes for my prescription, I was thrilled. I had fifteen uninterrupted minutes to wander along the joyful aisles of a Walgreen's, how often in life are we given that opportunity? (A lot.)

After I'd put Will on the airplane, I'd choked down a bowl of soup, thrown up the bowl of soup, and then fell asleep. The next morning wasn't looking any brighter. I went down to the beach to try and heal myself with the fresh sea breeze and some rare self portraiture of me looking pale and skinny. The pale and skinny part of that sentence is what makes it rare. For once it didn't cheer me up; instead I puked quietly and despondently in the sand. So I trooped over to the hospital. They put me in the same room where I'd been less than week earlier when my shoulder bones began their trial separation.
Photo by Chris Forsberg, if I don't say this he'll be after me. He seems to know his rights.

The nurses gave me an IV and pumped me full of wickedly good stuff. I don't know what it was. I'd been feeling mildly stiffed that I'd had my hands on some Vicodin for my shoulder and it went to waste. I don't engage in mild altering activities and I hear vicodan gives you a pleasant high if it doesn't make you barf your head off. I was excited, and then I got the virus and barfed my head off anyway, so the Vicodin never made it to the correct receptors. Whatever they gave me that day in the hospital more than made up for it. I fell blissfully asleep, only not fully: I was just awake enough to be aware of how blissful I felt now that the pain was gone and I was floating above my body on a big white cloud.
The first two days of Will's visit were nearly as cheerful and peaceful as my drug induced high. For some reason, despite our checkerboard past and not having seen him for over a year, I was completely at ease. I expected my heart to be in my stomach when I retrieved him at the airport, but that wasn't the case. I am completely, utterly unselfconscious around him, which came in handy when I threw up on the door to the shower (not the inside of the shower either) while he was making toast in the other room. 

To get you over that image here is a picture of hometeam being held like a baby:
Those easy first days, we went to the beach and the huge park near the shipyard, walked through a terrific windstorm with our heads ducked against the gale, searching for glass and shells. We slept in and went out for perfectly crafted espresso at Fiore. I took him down to the yard and pointed out all the boats in my fleet except the Endeavour, which is wintering in Baja. Those two days swirl together in my memory, but they were sandy and windswept and happy. I got stuck in his eyelashes a few times. We were sort of entranced by one another.
We had dinner with Steph and Ammen, who held the permit to our grand canyon trip where it all began. They are the very reason we ever met. As always they fed us well, and we talked about cabins on the ocean we could rent for the weekend. I had originally planned to fill every second of our time with outdoors activity, which used to be the only way to keep him sane. Skiing, hot springs six miles deep in the woods, snow shoeing. Those plans evaporated the second my shoulder hit the snowy ground before the rest of my body, and so my next attempt was to whisk him away to the isolated coast to the West. 

On the way home, Will told me he didn't need a trip to the ocean. That the Puget Sound was ocean enough. "An isolated cabin with you would be great, but my life right now is completely isolated. I'd rather do city things? Like.... museums?"
His voice inflected into a question because he knew how shocked I'd be. I couldn't believe it. The city craving side of a man who lived entirely in and for the wilderness.

That night I drifted easily into sleep, thinking about all the ways I'd show off my city of a decade, the raw and colorful Pike Place with their flower bouquets and dusty magic shops and flying fish, the gum wall, a ferry out to Bainbridge island. I thought about the science museum and the aquarium and the sculpture garden at sunset. Simultaneously, somewhere inside, the virus was planning its blitzkrieg. I awoke in the morning and I knew it was all over. I ran into the bathroom, bypassed the preferred receptacle for vomit (not enough time to lift the seat) and threw up on the shower door. The cat observed silently from the sink.

For the remainder of his visit I was bedridden. Except for the unfortunate beach trip. It was really sad. He took care of me, along with my roommate, but there wasn't much they could do. It was one of those painful stomach viruses. If I moved, it hurt. If I sat up, I'd throw up. The second night I  burned up in bed with a fever and Will rubbed me down with pieces of ice. It was like the grand canyon sickness take two, only not as dramatic. Or traumatic. Or memorable, or storyworthy. I've gotten a lot of mileage telling that story live, but this one, how my crappy immune system ruined his once a year visit, I'll only tell here.

I was so fucking mad. "Will," I whispered after I'd been lying in the same position for 12 hours, "I must tell you I've become a very independent, vibrant, sporty and can-do person since we broke up." I paused. "You may not know that by looking at me now."

Will rubbed an ice cube on my forehead and said, "I know, Lina." He was bemused. Seventy five to eighty percent of the time, I bemuse him.

Then the airport, the soup, the hospital. The sweet, lapping waves of something good hitting my seratonin receptors. I was there for about twelve hours. Then, for the second time in a week, they  filled my discharge papers and asked, "Are you here alone? Because you can't drive after what we gave you." And, for the second time in one week I responded with a stiff upper lip, "It's okay, I'll just walk."

I didn't mind. I didn't mind anything in the world because right before I left they emptied a whole second vial of the stuff into my arm. It went right to my head and it made me deliriously pleasant to be around. The best way to describe it is that I felt intensely, bizarrely cozy inside. And so, script in hand, I marched down to Walgreen's at midnight, beaming at the empty streets and the few passing cars.

If you ever get a dose of this stuff, go to Walgreen's. There is no better place for you on earth. Besides all the helpful boxed remedies, there is shelf upon shelf of cheap, inexcusably flimsy, wasteful stuff, which, when stripped on the labels of cheap, flimsy and wasteful, is actually just a bundle of plastic joy. The store was decorated prematurely for Easter (they mowed right through St. Patrick's day) which is the world's happiest holiday, strictly in terms of decoration. I just stood there and smiled back at all of it, completely blown away by the amount of fun surounding. Fuck me, is that a bunch of peeps skewered on a stick? Chocolate carrots wrapped up in orange foil? An M&M full of M&Ms? A pastel M&M wearing a basketball cap with legs filled with real M&MS?

So wondrous. All was right with the world.

I guess this is why people do drugs.

I can honestly say I felt as happy and blissful dreamily content as I've ever been.

So it was probably a good thing when my insurance refused to cover my script on the spot, and the bored looking pharmacist pushed the papers back at me and shrugged. I'm not sure if the medicine was the same stuff they'd pushed into my veins at the ER, I didn't think to ask, but if I'd had a whole bottle of that stuff for myself it may have ruined my life. In the most blissful possible way.

Which is sort of what Will did, because he lives so far away, with no prospects of moving here in the near future. He completely wrecked my Seattle life in the most windy, blissful, lovely way.
Annnd now for something completely different: the winner of the winter photo giveaway. Thanks for all the winter time survival tips, they were fun to read and a lot of people mentioned that they scrolled through and looked at all the comments to get some good ideas. The winner (chosen my random.org) is.....

Jacki said...
Something about that Irish Boat just grabs me - beautiful!

My surefire way to beat the winter blues is to take a four-year-old sledding. I would imagine any winter activity with an enthusiastic young pal would do, but my boyfriend's son + sledding = instant cheer.

And on days when my sledding buddy isn't available, hot chocolate and lighting a bunch of candles around the house.

Congrats Jacki! Irish boat coming your way. Email me at: melina (dot) Coogan (@) gmail.com

All in a week

1. thursday yoga is a tradition older than ella 2. shell-less on the summit on another warm day 3. king sized bed outside of chicago 4. Miro tea with my baby cousin 5. playing this word game that made us nearly vomit with laughter (thanks Jesse for the shot). 6. the last day of january 7. Jesse murders chocolate hearts 'in preparation for valentines' 8. the wisconsin border is not the 7th wonder of the world 9. the downward dog on an urban trek 10. an entire day, just her and me.

This is what it means to say I'm getting by

I would like the world to know that I live in a shitty apartment. It's probably the worst apartment in this entire watery scandinavian neighborhood. The other day my roommate broke down the door to the downstairs laundry room because it had rusted shut. She's got a good strong arm.

My cousin told me that some people pretend to live above their means and that it was very good that I live squarely within mine, even if there is no bath tub. Even if the place should actually be condemned. We wonder sometimes if maybe the management would rather see it burn down and that's why the furnace is so over enthusiastic and rattly. I bought renter's insurance the day I moved in.

Downstairs lives a cigarette smoking, thirty-something hero from Nebraska. He was in charge of the entire democratic campaign for the state of Washington, he has gay marriage and legalized pot to his name. I think about this when he plays awful music in the morning and it reverberates into my bedroom; I remind myself about his accomplishments, and decide I don't need to complain.

I met a boy two weeks ago who plays hockey. He was funny and I asked him on a date. He said yes and then he got mono. He got mono the very next day.

The apartment has its own charm. Somewhere. I haven't found it yet, but it's there. My roommate is an artist, she's hung art all over the walls. She put two pictures of sailors, a mate and a midshipman, over the sink, that I particularly like. There is a joyous squirrel who resides in the walls and scurries around all of the time, doing his busy squirrel things. We see him outside, chewing on a nut and jumping all over the roof. He's the wildest guy. We're not hostile towards him even though the sound of his little claws scratching within the insulation can be unnerving.

Three weeks ago my banker sweet-talked me into switching checking accounts. He said it made the most sense for my needs, and then he made a big mistake and linked all the new cards to the old account. That night I went to dinner with my ex boyfriend, and I wasn't coming off as very cool or collected, and then, just to drive the point home, my card was declined. "Not enough funds perhaps?" asked my ex boyfriend while I twitched at the unfairness of it all.

The next day the banker put on his sympathetic and apologetic smile, very similar to the one worn by the waitress who took my tearful order the night before. "I hope this didn't cause you too much trouble!" said the banker, voice booming. He was cheerful, a real guy's guy with a thick wedding band and a terrible watch.

"No trouble," I said, "Only deep seated humiliation." And then I made him sit through the whole story, the dinner and why we were at the dinner, and how it ended, and how I felt about it all. That was his punishment for the part he played in the bank's causing me to appear less than put together, as if drinking my dinner and hiding behind my hair like a middle schooler hadn't already given it away.

The shitty apartment has its perks. When the guy from Nebraska is out hanging with the president (literally) I can play loud 90s music with no regard for the well being of the rest of the world. 90s music, it's really speaking to me right now. Sonny's come home many times in the last month. Today's top hits are a little too spunky for me these days. Sometimes I'll fall lightly asleep in the middle of the day and hope that by the time I wake up this country's obsession with Adam Levine will be over.

The walls in the apartment are the color of a bandaid, honestly, sort of a tan fabric-y skin color. But there is a pantry- a whole room for food!- and just in general, things are looking up. I went to a party the other night and looked great, by my standards. I even pulled off the eye liner. I met a cinematographer who was slight in build but very handsome and accomplished and he took down my number. That was many days ago.

The apartment is covered in a beige carpet, everywhere except the kitchen. It looks terrible but it's quite soft under the feet. My roommate comes home from work, dressed in all black down to the underwear, and we sit on the carpet three inches from the furnace. I read an article that says that sex and alcohol make you happier than religion. "Well," I say, "there will always be alcohol." Once I army-crawled from my bedroom to the kitchen and retrieved a beer out of the fridge on my stomach because I found it really funny.

I wish that the tall man in the down jacket had been looking at me in the coffee shop, and not the girl in the crisp white blouse sitting behind me.

I've never once, not one time in my life, gotten away with wearing a crisp white anything. It's always stained before I even leave the house, and I use the passive tense because I don't cause the stain, it just happens. I went on a date the other night and I wore a long green sweater. It was great, lose, it made me appear bony, and I'm not bony. I stained the sweater and the most baffling part was, I didn't even eat anything on the date. Therefore I can't fathom the origin of the stain which looked like balsamic. The poor guy, he ordered dinner but I just drank a beer. And when he (eventually) asked me a question about myself I said, "Oh me? I think I'm depressed."

I'm not depressed at all. But I was a little depressed at the time because I didn't want to be on the date. Unfortunately I think he found my forthrightness (or maybe my boniness) intriguing and after he finished his dinner he ordered another drink.

We only signed a six month lease on the apartment because it's going to be destroyed after we leave, and a condo built in its place. That really made me question the pet deposit. I will miss the kitchen though. The kitchen is tiled and spacious, a real selling point. It's a good place to cook soup and to make breakfast at six in the morning before dashing off to the ski hill. In the evenings I like to fix a drink, open Facebook and spend an hour or so comparing what people have accomplished in their entire lives to what I've accomplished in the last 24 hours. I never measure up well. So many people and their fiances and back country ski trips that are way better than mine. And the houses! Was I supposed to be saving money this whole time so I too could be captioning my photos with things like 'it's a fixer upper for sure but we loooove the wood floors!" I just charged my coffee to a credit card; somebody please explain this gap.

The location of our apartment just can't be beat. There is a fruit stand a few blocks away called Top Banana. We always have bowls and bowls of fruit that we liquify and drink with gusto. We are bizarrely healthy. I can walk everywhere, to the dark cafe where all the writers go and talk loudly about our unreasonably demanding agents (we don't really have agents). I walk to the funky gym inside the old hotel, the nice grocery store, the bar with pin ball machines, the pizza place and the pet store that's managed by a semi-famous poet. I love our neighborhood. I never drive anywhere.

I finally got my bicycle back from my ex boyfriend, after the dinner where the card was declined. We bolted the bicycle to the back porch but if anyone wanted the bicycle they could take down the back porch with a nail file. We don't hang out on the porch, it wobbles. My first night in the place I opened three windows, and all the locks peeled off in my hands. Just like that.

I want the world to know that even though the apartment is shitty, it doesn't mean we're unhappy living here. In fact I'd like to be the spokesperson for those of us nearing 30 and still living in bland places with tacky carpeting. I'd make a good candidate for this job because my life is lucky and wonderful, just not from an observer on the street. We're pretty broke but we're getting by, and we have a lot of good friends and a few side projects which might turn us into big stars one day. We might be kind of quiet about where we live, or other certain parts of our lives, but it's not because we're ashamed. It's because we're probably focused on other things right now.

The walls in my apartment are dreadfully textured and half the outlets don't work, but if I could change anything about my life, it would have nothing to do with where I lived. I might change the minds of the editors at the big magazines, or at least speed up their response times. I'd change the numbers in my bank account so that I could afford a new camera before I die. While I'm at it, I'd shorten the recovery time for mono by five months and make my hair behave at all times, especially at night, especially when I bump into the cinematographer at the grocery store wearing that stupid sweatshirt which hides my nicely sculpted shoulders.

And I'd like the cinematographer to call me, although something tells me he never will.  I can't understand that for one second, because honestly if I met myself at a party, I'd call. I'd call right away, I wouldn't even play the game.